Each week during the season we’ll talk with the FanSided editor who covers the Colts’ upcoming opponent and try to get a better understanding of the enemy before us. This time around, we float our Trojan Horse up to the Buccaneer’s ship in Tampa Bay and talk to Josh Hill of The Pewter Plank.
1) The Buccaneers seem to be one of the young, rising teams in the league, but they play in a tough division. Is this the year they make it back to the playoffs?
"I’d like to think that this is the year Tampa finally makes it back to the playoffs but it’s really too early to tell. As you all in Indy know, a season can be changed in a heartbeat and everything that looked promising can be washed away in an instant. I don’t foresee any serious injuries tanking the Bucs, should that happen, rather I see them being inconsistent. As of Monday they’ll have played 7 really good quarters of football out of 12 and that’s not going to cut it in the NFC South. The Falcons are just slow to heat up and the Saints are as dangerous as ever. If Tampa plays games against the Saints or the Packers like they did against Detroit Week 1 and Minnesota Week 2 those teams won’t let you back into the game. If Tampa can build on their performance last week which, was a big spot win against a divisional opponent, and improve on that success then I see them making a hard run at not only a playoff spot but a division title."
2) Which Buccaneers players have surprised you the most (good or bad) so far this season?
"Mike Williams has been a surprise, but not a bad one as many would think. He hasn’t had a breakout game yet and that is disappointing fantasy fans, but it’s not too upsetting for Tampa fans. Yes, we all would like to see Williams making amazing touchdown catches, but just because he’s not scoring doesn’t mean he’s not contributing. Williams has shown a real talent at run blocking which was key in the Week 2 comeback against the Vikings and do a degree last week against the Falcons. Another thing Williams does that isn’t reflected in his statistics is the double coverage he draws which frees up other guys to help move the ball. Going back to the last two weeks again, Williams went negative yardage in Minnesota, drew double coverage the whole game but while the Vikings were honed in on stopping Williams, KellenWinslow and Preston Parker were making catch after catch and moving the ball down field. Same thing happened last week but to on a smaller scale. So Mike Williams has been a surprise, but not the kind of surprised that his fantasy owners are having. I’ll take Mike Williams blocking or drawing coverage from other receivers over him going 145 yards and no scores any day of the season. Ask Falcons fans how well a receivers who go 100-plus and no scores works."
3) What key match-ups should we keep an eye on this week?
"Going back to the previous question, keep an eye on Mike Williams. His blocking is good an all but he’s just itching for a breakout game. He’s on the verge and he will have one huge game this year, choosing when it will be is the hard part. The Colts secondary is nothing to write home about and Williams matches up well against them. This is a secondary that let two top flight receivers go score and go almost 100 yards on them. Mike Williams is still below Andre Johnson but is a step above Mike Wallace. Both guys went for a combined two touchdowns and had 95 and 145 yards respectively. I see the Bucs offense built like that of the Steelers and they had a pretty good week last week. Three receivers (one being a tight end) had more than 70 yards receiving last Sunday night and Tampa is going to look at whatPittsburgh did as a blueprint for Monday. If Williams breaks out, Preston Parker will rack up yards and so will either Kellen Winslow or Luke Stocker. The slippery slope is then that LaGarrette Blount may be able to expose the coverage and get some yardage and although RashardMendenhall had a bad week in spite of the receiver success, I feel Blount is the superior back in that comparison. Mike Williams is hungry for a big game and what better an opportunity than on national television on Monday Night Football. Watch him."
4) Josh Freeman seems like he has stalled a bit compared to last season. Can he be better than he was in 2010?
"If you’re looking at Free’s numbers, then yes he has taken a big dive from last year. But, Tampa is in the same spot they were last year too despite his numbers being low. That is because as valuable a high statics quarterback is, a leader is more important. Aaron Rodgers finished sixth in total passing touchdowns last year, finished seventh in total passing yards and sixth in completion percentage last season, but he won the Super Bowl. He goes to show that if you have a team that stands behind you and believes in you then winning will come naturally. NowRogers is still the better quarterback than Free at the moment but they share the same leadership quality that their teams can rally behind. Freeman has 8 comeback wins in his two seasons of starting and when a quarterback starts doing that it infects the team with swagger and it improves the team in all aspects. Week 2 in Minnesota was a perfect example of that; being down 17 points and leading a second half that outscores your opponent 24-3 is something that Freeman is repeating from last year. Last week against the Falcons he didn’t win the game with his arm, he won it with his mind by drawing the Falcons offsides on 4th and 1 at the end of the game. Freeman will have the numbers eventually but the fact he has such solid leadership skills and the fact he has transported those over from last year and improved on them is amazing and if that how Tampa gets wins, then I have no problem with that."
5) Finally, what are your predictions for the game?
"This game looks like a gimme for the Bucs, but those kinds of games have always and will always scare me. Having to not face Peyton Manning is a major weight off the Bucs shoulders and rattling something called Curtis Painter doesn’t seem like a tall task. But everyone forgets that just because Peyton Manning is gone doesn’t mean Reggie Wayne is gone, or Dallas Clark is gone or Pierre Garcon is gone. These guys may not produce on the insane levels they do with Peyton, but the potential to produce isn’t completely non-existent. I still see Tampa winning this game because they need this game. It’s not a must win but the game has a lot riding on it (like potentially sole possession of first place in the NFC South) and the game just got remarkably easier to win. The Colts won’t just roll over and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a young backup blossom right before our eyes either. Just as much as Mike Williams would like to breakout on national television you’d have to be crazy to not think Curtis Painter is in love with the idea of becoming the next backup sensation on Monday Night Football. Both seem like storyline permoances and both are equally capable of coming true."